Sheila El Hadery, one of th2studio’s Design Directors, is known for her energy and her thirst for new ideas. She loves to keep abreast of industry developments and is always on the lookout for new artisans and craftspeople to champion. We interviewed her to find out more about her background, the things that inspire her and her plans for Th2Stuido.
What made you want to become an interior designer?
‘On the work preference wheel I am a creative and I have always been interested in design. As a child, when all my friends had rose trellis wallpaper, I had a chocolate-brown walls with white woodwork and a Biba poster!
‘I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I started out – luck played a large part. I was very fortunate to work with some fascinating interior designers who gave me the opportunity to test my skills – and here I am today, working alongside two of the best people in the industry and helping to run a wonderful company. I have always loved spaces, am excited by new things and like styling unusual pieces together. I also love technology, which is essential in the design world of today.’
Can you remember the first project you ever worked on?
‘I can remember the first one that challenged me: a show flat and marketing suite on the river. It marked the start of a major style change – a move away from swags and tails, towards cleaner, more contemporary spaces that were much more akin to my natural style. I remember angst-ing over every detail, but I loved the end result.’
What attributes do you think a great interior designer needs to have?
‘You need a good sense of what works together, an understanding of space and scale, an eye for detail and the ability to get on with people – both clients and suppliers. It’s no good having wonderful ideas if you can’t deliver them. It helps to be commercially minded as well, and to know where to spend and where to save. It doesn’t hurt to cheat in some of the less important spaces!’
Where will you be focusing your attention in 2016?
‘During my career I have worked at all levels of the market, from the cost effective to the high end, as design director at Taylor Howes Designs. I’m now hugely excited to be putting all that experience into developing our new online brand, Th2Stuido, along with Gail Taylor, Karen Howes and our very creative studio team.
We’re still in the first-phase release but our site provides savvy but time-poor purchasers with great design at affordable prices. You can buy individual products or whole rooms, which include a mix of items that have been carefully chosen to work together. We’re currently extending the offering to include a ‘chat service’ that will smooth the way for customers – I embrace technology, but sometimes you just need to talk to someone!’
What do you love most about your work? Is there anything that frustrates you?
‘I love the eclectic mix of people in our team. I’m an ‘antique’ and I enjoy the buzz that I get from working with highly creative millennials! What frustrates me is that there are just not enough hours in the day.’
What (or who) inspires you?
‘My family and friends – for love, fun, energy and inspiration and wonderful food! I do also love anything designed by Christian Liaigre!’
How would you describe your own personal style?
‘My natural taste is contemporary with an ethnic twist. We travel a great deal and I am always buying, so I’m surrounded by pieces that I have found. I’ve just read a wonderful book about cleansing the home; it stresses the beneficial effect of being surrounded by things that you love. On the mantelpiece in our family room there are decorative pieces from Burma, Morocco, Thailand and The Conran Shop. They sit alongside my favourite candle from Hotel Costes – it smells sublime.’
How do you like to spend your downtime?
‘Travelling – our son lives in the Far East and we are lucky enough to be able to visit him regularly. I just love experiencing new cultures and finding unusual handmade pieces made by local craftspeople.
‘At home, I love spending time with friends and family. To relax, I practise yoga and go on long walks.’
If you could take six months off work, what would you do?
‘I would live in Bali, do yoga every day and seek out amazing artisans to produce beautiful and unusual products for Th2Studio. Something as simple as a cushion or a fascinating piece of art can change the mood of a room.’
Can you tell us about any new projects on the horizon?
‘Last year at th2 we worked on over 100 projects, which means that we hardly drew breath! We have lovely clients who all enjoy working with our young, professional team and they come back to us time and time again. As a result, we’ve started the year on a high and already have a number of projects in the pipeline, from country homes in Surrey to contemporary new builds on the river.’
Any advice you’d like to share with those starting out in the industry?
‘Give your all and take risks. Challenge yourself so that you continue to grow professionally, and always treat people in the way you would expect to be treated. Furniture and walls are just furniture and walls… it’s friendship that makes us human.’